UFC 235: Jones vs Smith- Televised Prelim Predictions

UFC 235: Jones vs Smith- Televised Prelim Predictions

145lbs- #6 Jeremy Stephens (28-15-0) vs #13 Zabit Magomedsharipov (17-1-0)

The final preliminary bout features future contender Zabit Magomedsharipov facing feared knockout artist and 29-fight UFC veteran Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens. Magomedsharipov is 4-0 in the UFC with a trio of submission wins including his most recent win over Brandon Davis. Stephens is coming off a crush TKO loss to former Champion Jose Aldo- he had won 3 in row before the defeat.

At 6’1″, Magomedsharipov is the taller man by 5 inches, but he will have just a 2″ reach advantage. Jeremy is the older fighter by 5-years.

Stephens has made concerning comments in the media regarding his mindset after the Aldo loss. He has struggled against elite level competition, losing to the likes of Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, and the aforementioned Aldo.

For Zabit, the question remains- is he elite?

The Russian offers a diverse offensive attack, melding together a strong ground attack and solid striking repertoire. He has recorded 6 wins by knockout and 7 by submission.

While Magomedsharipov offers a varied offensive front, Stephens is best known for his fight-stopping power. Jeremy has finished 19 opponents by knockout, and if he lands he can put almost anyone down.

Conversely, Stephens is 7-10 in decisions. While Stephens has worked toward expanding his offensive offerings by integrating more kicks and wrestling, against more diversified strikers he has struggled. Jeremy will chase the knockout and can fall behind on the scorecards as a result.

Zabit effectively utilizes his reach, fighting his opponents on the outside and has completed 23 takedowns once the action starts to transpire at close range

Stephens represents a step up in competition for Magomedsharipov. If he can land a big shot early he could change the complexion of the fight. Unfortunately, he is going to struggle to get into range with consistency and his wrestling won’t be an option as Magomedsharipov is too good on the floor. Zabit will frustrate him on the outside and force Stephens to take desperate low percentage chances- my prediction is Zabit Magomedsharipov to defeat Jeremy Stephens by decision.

205lbs- #14 Misha Cirkunov (14-4-0) vs #15 Johnny Walker (13-3-0)

The surging Johnny Walker makes a quick turnaround as he returning to face Latvian-born Canadian Misha Cirkunov in the Light Heavyweight division. Walker is 2-0 in the UFC, most recently putting down Justin Ledet in just 15-seconds. Cirkunov is coming off an impressive submission win over Patrick Cummins to end a 2-fight losing streak- he is 5-2 in the promotion.

Walker is replacing the injured Ovince Saint Preux on 3 weeks notice and last fought just a month ago. The 6’5″ Brazilian is 2 inches taller than Cirkunov to go along with a 5″ reach advantage. Walker is the younger man by 5-years.

Misha success has been a product of his stellar grappling game. Based in Judo and BJJ, he has averaged 4.53 takedowns per fight and finished each of his last 3 wins by submission.

Equally as impressive has been the finishing rate of Walker, including 13 wins by knockout. Johnny utilized close range elbows to score the finish in his debut and a spinning back fist to put his most recent adversary on the floor.

The key to his fight will be gap management. Cirkunov does his best work from the clinch, landing short strikes and setting up his takedowns. Conversely, Walker likes to use kicks and range weapons to target his opponent on the outside.

Walker’s UFC fights have been abrupt, but during his Contender’s bout he went the distance and tired significantly in the second half of the fight. If Misha can utilize his grinding clinch attack, he could exhaust and overwhelm the Brazilian.

Misha has been finished in both of his UFC defeats, raising questions about his ability to deal with adversity and damage.

Walker’s quick finishes still leave a lot of questions unanswered. If Misha can get him to the floor either with a takedown or by capitalizing on one of Johnny’s high-risk manoeuvres, he can end this one quick. Conversely, Cirkunov’s striking is still a little stiff and he will struggle to get into range against the longer foe. Walker will keep Misha on the outside, eventually hurting Cirkunov when he attempts to close the distance- my prediction is Johnny Walker to defeat Misha Cirkunov by TKO.

135lbs- #12 Cody Stamann (17-2-0) vs #13 Alejandro Perez (22-6-1)

In a battle of closely ranked Bantamweights, Cody Stamann looks to rebound from a difficult defeat when he takes on Mexico’s own Alejandro Perez. Stamann started his UFC career with a trio of wins before running into Aljamain Sterling who submitted him in round 2. Perez is undefeated in his last 7 fights, compiling an impressive 7-1-1 record inside the Octagon.

Both fighters stands 5’6″, but Perez has a 3-inch longer reach. Stamann is replacing Yadong Song with less than 2-month to prepare.

Perez has compiled an impressive run over a series of closely contested fights. Over his last 5 fights, Perez has outlanded his foe by more than 5 significant strikes on just 1 occasion.

The American has relied on a takedown-heavy attack, completing 15 takedowns over 4 fights. A ground-heavy approach could be a key weapon against Perez who has been subbed 3-times and taken down more twice on 3 different occasions.

In his win over Matthew Lopez, Alejandro struggled with Lopez’s wrestling in the opening round. It wasn’t until Lopez’s faded that Perez was able to take over.

Stamann is a solid wrestler and while he has struggled with maintaining top position, he is persistent and will continue to shoot for takedowns throughout the fight.

Perez has a tendency to allow his opponents to dictate the exchanges, opting to sit back and counter. This is a major contributor to the narrow striking totals and contestable decision wins.

Perez has benefited from some questionable decisions in close fights. That ends here. Stamann’s aggressive wrestling, pressure based striking, and solid gas tank will be too much for Perez to overcome. Unless Alejandro can hurt Cody early, Stamann will simply outwork him- my prediction is Cody Stamman to defeat Alejandro Perez by decision.

170lbs- Diego Sanchez (30-11-0) vs Mickey Gall (5-1-0)

The first televised preliminary bout features the return of the “Nightmare” Diego Sanchez as he takes on submission ace Mickey Gall in the Welterweight division. Sanchez is coming off his first win in roughly 2-years, earning a decision victory over Craig White. Gall scored a 69-second submission win over George Sullivan to improve to 4-1 in the UFC.

Gall is 11-years younger than Diego, standing 4 inches taller with 2″ reach advantage.

Diego’s fighting style is well documented. He is a brawler with strong submission defence and a diminishing level of durability.

His wins over White, Marcin Held, and Jim Miller came largely because Sanchez was able to defend their grappling attack and control top position. That will be the key against Gall who has secured all 5 of his pro wins by sub.

More specifically, all of Mickey’s wins have come by rear-naked choke. His only loss came in a fight where he was unable to consistently control his opponent on the mat and faded.

Gall will utilize multiple forms of takedowns and is an aggressive guard passer. For Sanchez, he is not easy to get off of his feet- giving up just 3 takedowns over his last 7 fights.

Mickey has showcased very little beyond his dominant position submission skills. Brown exploited his lack of diversity by putting him on his back and outworking him. Sanchez’s durability is a concern, but his wrestling and BJJ are not. Gall doesn’t appear to have the striking needed to exploit Diego on the feet and Sanchez has shown he can shut down skilled grapplers with his top game- my prediction is Diego Sanchez to defeat Mickey Gall by decision.

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